Monday, April 30, 2012

Chesapeake Bay Diet Plan Splits Environmental Groups

WAPO has a pretty long article today on how the plans behind the EPA Bay Restoration plan, commonly called the "Bay Diet" is causing dissension among the various groups seeking to force the EPA to clean up the Bay.  It appear to come down to the matter of nutrient trading (basically, "cap and trade" for nutrients).  EPA's and Chesapeake Bay Foundation's hopes for nutrient control ride on them, while some of the smaller groups, particularly the "Riverkeeper" groups, distrust that they will be adequately enforced.

Bay cleanup plan has environmental groups at odds
From the bay foundation’s perspective, a challenge to the EPA’s authority by the group’s allies is not much different from the challenge being heard in a Pennsylvania court by its foes — the farm, pesticide, pork and home-builder lobbies that stand against the strict regulations of the pollution diet.

Riverkeeper groups also want a clean bay, but some could not stomach one of EPA’s methods, a program that would turn the Chesapeake’s waters into an open marketplace for farmers and corporations that create pollution.

Under a nutrient trading program, farmers who exceed pollution reduction goals set by the EPA would receive credits they could sell to corporations such as coal-fired power plants that fail to reach their own reduction goals.

In theory, the program would help farmers pay for expensive crop covers and buffers to soak up rain. Storm runoff from farms is a major problem because it carries nitrogen from fertilizers and phosphorus from animal waste into streams and rivers that flow to the bay. The pollution contributes to oxygen-depleted “dead zones” that smother oysters, crabs, mussels and other marine life in the nation’s largest estuary.

But Riverkeeper group members and some other environmentalists say that nutrient trading is a shell game that will allow more pollution to creep into the bay. They say that because of lax farm regulations in bay watershed states — Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New York — the EPA would have no sure way of knowing whether farmers have met pollution reduction goals.
And then it turns to the politics within the movement, and it isn't all that pretty:
About two months ago, members of Riverkeeper groups gathered at the foundation in Annapolis for an important word from their sponsor. According to a member who attended the meeting, the foundation’s director, Verna Harrison, reminded them that the foundation had donated $4 million to their causes over the years and then issued an ultimatum.

“If you challenge nutrient trading, you’re done. You won’t be funded by us anymore,” said the Riverkeeper member, recalling Harrison’s words. The member declined to be named, fearing a funding cut. Merrifield of Potomac Riverkeeper also declined to comment on the dispute.

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